May 25, 2024

Kremlin refuses comment on report it replaced navy commander after losing warships to Ukrainian attacks in Black Sea.

The Kremlin has declined to comment on reports that the commander-in-chief of the Russian navy has been sacked.

A spokesperson in Moscow said on Monday that “no public decrees” have been made on the fate of Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov. Reports over the weekend asserted that he had been replaced following the loss of a string of warships to Ukrainian attacks in the Black Sea.

Several news outlets, including the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper, claimed that Yevmenov, 61, had been replaced by Northern Fleet commander Alexander Moiseyev. Any such appointment would typically be announced by presidential decree.

“There are decrees labelled secret, I cannot comment on them. There were no public decrees on this matter,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

If confirmed, the removal of Yevmenov – who was appointed head of the navy in May 2019 – would be the biggest shake-up in Russia’s military top brass since the sacking of aerospace force chief Sergei Surovikin last year.

Ukrainian forces claim to have destroyed more than two dozen Russian ships since the conflict began in February 2022, including a military patrol boat last week.

The losses are an embarrassment for Moscow, which has been forced to move ships from its historic Sevastopol naval base in Crimea to Novorossiysk, further east.

Russia’s Black Sea woes come in stark contrast to its land offensive in east Ukraine, where its forces have advanced in recent months after over a year of deadlocked fighting.

‘Understandable’

The Kremlin spokesman also refused to comment on a recent CNN report that claimed that in late 2022 the US had been primed for a potential nuclear strike by Russia in Ukraine.

“This is the type of speculation that is published in various newspapers,” Peskov told reporters, without confirming or denying the report that Russian military commanders had discussed such a scenario at the time.

Peskov was, however, more enthusiastic to discuss the call by Pope Francis for Ukraine to sue for peace.

President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken of Russia’s willingness and openness to negotiations, but Kyiv had rejected such proposals, the Kremlin spokesman said.

Ukraine has rebuffed the pope’s call for it to show what he called the courage of the “white flag” and negotiate an end to the two-year war.

“It is quite understandable that he [the pope] spoke in favour of negotiations,” Peskov told reporters.

“Unfortunately, both the statements of the Pope and the repeated statements of other parties, including ours, have recently received absolutely harsh refusals.”

Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also leapt upon the pope’s comments.

“The way I see it, the pope is asking the West to put aside its ambitions and admit that it was wrong,” she said, claiming that the West is using Ukraine to try to weaken Russia.

Peskov said that the battlefield situation showed that Western hopes of inflicting a “strategic defeat” on Russia were mistaken.

“This is the deepest misconception, the deepest mistake, and the course of events, primarily on the battlefield, is the clearest evidence of this,” he said.

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